Studies in First Corinthiansby Bob Burridge ©2019
Lesson 49: 1 Corinthians 16:5-14 (ESV)
Busy schedules quickly give way to emergencies or special events. Sometimes, we think we’re so busy that we don’t have time for one more thing, then we get a call that somebody we care about is facing some kind of emergency situation. Everything changes. We drop what we’re doing and go there to be with them.
I remember that Saturday morning in October in 1992 that changed so much in just moments. Our son was off working at the nearby McDonalds. Our daughter had stayed over night with a friend from school. I had to go to a strategy meeting of the board of directors for our local Pregnancy Center. Lois was home busy with house cleaning jobs: vacuuming, dusting, and so on.
It was a dreary rainy day but there didn’t seem to be any reason to expect anything out of the ordinary. As a Pastor back then, I had my sermons finished for the next day, and my thoughts were occupied with ideas for the board meeting. We would be going over ideas to better serve the needs of women who came to the center looking for help.
When we came back to the meeting room after lunch there was a message waiting for me on the room phone. It said, “Your house is gone but your family is OK.” I had no idea what it meant. I thought it had to be a mistake, everything was fine when I left that morning. I called home to check and got a busy signal. My first thought was that Lois was talking on the phone. But that message, what did it mean? So I called my Dad in Largo to see if he heard anything.
He told me that a tornado destroyed our house, and Lois was taken to the emergency room. In those brief moments so much changed. The board meeting wasn’t my priority any more. I immediately got in my car and went to the hospital. Thankfully Lois was soon able to be released with no major injuries.
The months that followed centered on things we never imagined facing. We needed to replace our house, our clothes, furniture, even Lois’s Honda Civic that was also totaled. In fact there were several other cars literally dropped out of the sky in various places on our property.
Priorities changed. What mattered then was getting the family stabilized again. The greater priorities became the focus.
But even in the little routine things that happen day to day we see what our real priorities are by what gets the preference in the daily choices we make.
A mom might be wrapped up in a phone conversation when she hears her toddler screams. It might be just a bug or a little splinter in the finger, but she immediately stop what she’s doing to find out what the problem is — just to be sure.
Our choices are made based on our priorities at the moment: when we go to bed, how we spend our TV time, what we choose to read, what things we budget your money to buy, and who we want to be with.
Sometimes people know that God deserves more attention than they give him. But excuses come easily. People say they need to keep themselves fit and happy to serve better. So they skip worship times, are too busy for church fellowship, and withhold their tithes. They seldom read God’s word outside of church time, and pray only a few brief times each day. Choices reveal our real priorities — often uncomfortably. Honesty can be a hard mirror to look at.
Don’t be quick to just judge the priorities of others. We need to honestly examine what we really put first. How well are we maturing as Christians? How do our real priorities show that growth? How well do our choices fit with what we say is most important to us?
The Apostle Paul shaped his own plans around larger needs.
He was aware of the needs of God’s Kingdom that surrounded him. This is the awareness we need too as we make our choices every day.
Paul wasn’t just a theologian or church officer. He was a Christian with a warm heart for others, and a deep thankfulness to God for his mercies.
In this study we near the end of this first letter he wrote to Corinth. We know it as 1st Corinthians.
– It’s a letter of passionate concern and warmth for a church of confused and troubled believers.
– It’s a letter about Paul’s devotion to God’s Kingdom, and to his Loving Lord.
– It’s a letter that puts the work of God above the little things we’re aware of in this world.
– It raises our awareness beyond what people usually see, talk about, and worry about.
It’s in this higher plane of living and thinking that Paul shows us where real peace and joy can be found.
He was in Ephesus when he wrote this letter. He was on his 3rd Missionary Journey when he received some troubling reports. Things were not going well in the church at Corinth. Some from the house of Chloe reported that there were quarrels between factions in the church. The congregation also sent him a letter with some questions.
Paul wasn’t able to go there right away so he asked Timothy and Erastus to stop by Corinth while they were visiting other cities in that region. They could give them some help until Paul could get there himself. Then he wrote this letter to be sent on ahead to answer the main concerns right away.
The first 6 chapters are about the concerns of Chloe’s people. There were serious divisions in the church. They were tolerating instances of sexual immorality in the church as if it wasn’t important. Some attacked Paul’s apostleship, and members were suing one another in the civil courts. In general there was selfish pride, a lack of brotherly love, and little respect for God’s law.
Then, in chapters 7-16, Paul answered questions sent to him by the church. He explained the biblical principles of marriage, divorce, and sexual purity outside of marriage. He told them what to do about food that had been offered to idols, and how the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated. He corrected some abuses in worship, and about the headship of the men in the church. He warned against abuses of God’s special spiritual gifts which were given for the early church, and he cleared up confusion about the resurrection of the body after death. Then he challenged them to collect relief for the suffering Christians in Jerusalem.
As the letter neared it’s end,
Paul explained that he planned to visit
as soon as he could.
1 Corinthians 16:5-9
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.
8. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost,
9. for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
Paul was in Ephesus at the time, and planned to stay there little longer. He would leave sometime after Pentecost, the 50 day long season that follows Passover. There were important needs there. He and the believers were facing strong opposition. He didn’t want to pass up a chance to deal with the attacks, and help the church through them.
Then he had some visits to make in Macedonia. After that, he would go to Corinth to help them personally. He even planned to stay there for awhile, probably through the winter.
Paul was a very gifted and well trained Rabbi. He had studied under Gamaliel, one of the most respected teachers at that time. He could easily have settled down in any community and been well cared for. However, he was driven by something else, something far greater. He had a deep appreciation for God’s grace, the love that redeemed him, and for opportunities to serve Christ’s Kingdom.
Not all Christians are always lazy and apathetic. There are those who at times give up their own comforts and lives to serve Christ, some in hard ways. Not all serve as ministers or missionaries. Some are church members who serve very humbly. They choose to give up some comforts to serve their church:
– They go out of their way to bring Christ to the community, or drive others to church.
– They tell God’s truth to people they get to know, and invite them to church.
– They see the work they do as Kingdom work to be done well for God’s glory.
– They don’t put TV, Social Media, Sports Events, shopping, or hobbies above worship.
– They prepare on Saturday night so they can get up early to be on time for worship.
– They carefully plan their week so the Sabbath can be used for worship and service, rather than for labor and routine things that could be done on the other 6 days of the week.
– They turn away from the temptation of immoral thoughts, words, and actions.
Paul didn’t want to let his own interests come before his calling to live for God’s glory. Paul was sending help to get them through until he could come himself. Until he could come, he was sending Timothy.
1 Corinthians 16:10-11
10. When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am.
11. So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.
There were other places Timothy had to visit first, and travel was dangerous then. When he gets there, he should be treated with respect as one sent to do God’s work. He might have to point out some sins and things that needed to be changed. Some of the ungodly people in the church might give him a hard time. Paul wanted the believers there to respect him and kept him safe so that he would be able to leave peaceably to return to help Paul.
There was also another good friend Paul was encouraging to help them out.
1 Corinthians 16:12
Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.
Apollos had spent time there with the Corinthian people, and they respected him as a good teacher. When Paul pleaded with him to go to Corinth along with the other brothers, it wasn’t his desire to go at this time, but he will come when he has a good opportunity. He was probably waiting for circumstances to be better considering things God was calling him to do at that time.
Meanwhile — Paul leaves them with some specific things to work on.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14
13. Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
14. Let all that you do be done in love.
Here Paul summarizes the basic things he wants the Corinthians to be working on. These should be the priorities in our daily attitudes.
They should be watchful The word for “watchful” is “graegoreuo” (γρηγορεύω”). It means they should keep alert, stay awake. There were dangers from those who taught the errors that were disrupting the church. The false teachers had crept in and wouldn’t give up easily. Deceptions are often very subtle, so believers need to be on the alert for them. Don’t let trouble sneak up on you and snare you before you realize it for what it is.
They should stand firm in the faith: The word for “stand firm” is “staeko” (στήκω”). We get our English word “stake” from it. Like a tent stake that holds the tent firmly against the winds, believers should hold on with confidence to the truths God taught them. They should be immovable, well anchored, not easily shaken loose from them. We should remain true to what God has made known and requires in his word.
And they need to act like men: The word translated as “act like men” is “andritzomai” (ἀνδρίζομαι”) which means to be manly, brave. Christians should act bravely like protectors of valuable things. This spiritual bravery isn’t meant to be limited to males though. There are good examples in Scripture of women who were brave for Christ too.
All are called on to stand strongly against temptations and threats. Don’t let mockery, discomforts or threats deter you from what’s right. Stand strong for Christ — no matter what. Nothing is as worthy of our dedication and bravery.
Then Paul tells them to be strong: The word translated as “be strong” is “krataio-o” (κραταιόω”). Humanly, we don’t have the power in us to hold up to the attacks of the forces of evil. Our souls, though redeemed, are still imperfect and likely to give in. But we have a power that’s infinite and invincible: It’s the power of God, our Father and King. Our Savior and Shepherd lives still and promises to be with us in hard times. And the Holy Spirit lives in the hearts of the redeemed, though He’s often treated as just a distant well-wisher. It’s foolish to forget the power we have in Christ.
I often remind myself of the assurance we have in Jeremiah 32:17, ” ‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”
Do we really comprehend what that means? If we do, we’ll learn to rest in the power of the infinite God who can’t fail or be defeated.
And this is all to be done with love. Here the word translated as “love” is “agapae” (ἀγάπη). This is that special love that’s implanted in us when we’re regenerated by grace through Christ. It’s the God-given ability and disposition to promote God’s glory in our own attitudes and actions, and to give of ourselves to help others grow in their ability to promote God’s glory and therefore to be blessed.
With God’s word in our heads, the Holy Spirit in our redeemed hearts, and love shown by Christ implanted in our souls, we’re made able to endure with what helps God sends us until the greater help comes.
We need to endure while that
greatest of all help is on its way
but not here yet.
God sends human help to encourage us while we wait like the visits of Timothy, Apollos, and Paul to Corinth.
It’s like those frantic 9-1-1 calls we hear on the news sometimes. Someone calls in panicked about some emergency they’re facing. While the rescue workers are on their way, a good 9-1-1 operator helps the caller wait. They tell the person to calm down and to breath slowly to fight off the panic attack. They calmly ask questions so the emergency responders can be prepared for the problem when they get there.
Here Paul wasn’t able to come right away because there were other needs as well. But to get them through, they had to look to God and repair their own broken priorities. It’s very simple advice , good for all believers while we wait for the great moment when our Lord returns triumphantly.
Until that final and perfect help arrives, here’s what we need to do:
– Keep watch to see approaching dangers for what they really are.
– Stand firmly like a tent peg dug in to the solid ground of the Christian faith.
– Be brave, seeing beyond the immediate discomforts, looking to the glory that’s ahead.
– Be strong in the Lord, drawing from that infinite power that can’t fail.
– And do it all with the attitude of Christian Love devoted to pleasing God above all else, and to helping others to be able to do the same and be blessed.
Our time here is brief compared to
the eternity we have ahead of us.
For now our job is to keep the priorities straight! We shouldn’t let the distractions of the moment turn us away from what’s really most important.
Later, when Paul was held as a prisoner in Rome he wrote something similar to the church in Philippi. In Philippians 2:14-16 he said, “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”
Then in Philippians 3:7-14 he wrote, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
(The Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)