Instructions To Prepare A Collection For The Messianic Jews In Jerusalem; Paul’s Plans To Visit The Corinthians; Instructions About Timothy; News About Apollos; Encouragement To Persevere; Instructions About Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus; Final Greetings; A Final Warning; A Final Prayer; A Final Expression Of Love; A Final Amen
We’re at the end of Rabbi Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, and there are some good lessons to be learned from the end of this letter. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, God’s representative to the nations, but he was also a Messianic Jew who loved his own people. He was especially concerned for the well-being of the Messianic Jews in Israel. They had been experiencing persecution by the majority of the Jewish people who had rejected the truth about Messiah Yeshua. Because of the persecution, many had become impoverished. Paul wanted their Christian brothers and sisters outside of Israel who were better off to help them. He gives instructions to Messiah’s Community in Corinth to prepare a donation to be given to their brothers and sisters in Israel.
There are some important lessons to be learned from this about giving money. The first lesson: The Lord’s people should help each other, especially those who are suffering. Now about the collection for the Lord’s people. The Lord’s people are saints, holy ones. They have been set apart for God’s special and good purposes. In this case, the Lord’s people referred to the Messianic Jews in Jerusalem. The Lord’s people in Corinth should help the Lord’s people in Jerusalem.
The second lesson: it encourages us to give when we know that others are giving. Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. Paul is letting them know that he was not singling them out to give money. Others had been asked to give, and they had responded positively. Knowing this made it easier for Messiah’s Community in Corinth to get involved in the fund-raising. Your giving can encourage others to give; and your lack of giving can have the opposite effect.
The third lesson: give in an organized way. 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. Paul did not want last-minute fund-raising efforts to take place when he arrived. He wanted to have everything ready when he arrived so he wouldn’t have to bother with fund-raising and so that the money could be sent right away to Jerusalem. To do this, he wanted them to organize their giving. Each week, on the first day of the week, they were to set aside money and save it up until he arrived. Then all the money that had been saved could be collected and sent on to Jerusalem. It’s good if our giving is not haphazard, but organized.
The fourth lesson: giving honors God and therefore should be a priority. Money was to be set aside the first day of the week, not the last day of the week. Giving at the beginning of a new week is like Israel giving the firstfruits of our crops. There is a huge difference in the way God is honored if money is set aside at the beginning of each new week, to be used for God, or giving what may be left over at the end of the week.
The fifth lesson: Giving is connected to the amount of income. Each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income. Those who make more should give more, and those who make less are expected to give less. Those who make more are not worthy of more honor if they give more than those who give less because they make less. Remember the lesson of the widow who gave two small copper coins. Her giving was more praiseworthy than the giving of those who gave a lot.
The sixth lesson: The money that is raised is to handled with integrity. 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. Reliable people were chosen to entrust the money to and get it to the proper recipients. Paul, who was respected by the leaders in Jerusalem, would give the men whom the Corinthians knew were men of integrity, letters of introduction to ensure that they and the money were treated properly. And if that wasn’t enough, Paul was willing to travel with them to insure the integrity of the entire process.
It’s so sad when the money that the Lord’s people give is not treated by people with integrity. That happened to a church that I was part of. One of the leaders handled the money and embezzled some of it. And it’s also sad when the money that is given is not used for worthy causes. I am thinking of “On Wings of Eagles,” and the “International Fellowship of Christians and Jews” and those who give to corrupt ministers and ministries. I want you to know that we are committed to treat the money that is given to Shema with integrity and use it for worthy purposes.
Next, Paul shared his plan with them. 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.
Paul had a plan but it was flexibile. His plan was to leave Ephesus, travel up the Agean coast to Macedonia, then south to Corinth and then spend time with them. However, he understood that his plan was under the control of the Lord – if the Lord permits. The Lord would ultimately determine the outcome.
Paul used logic, reason, intelligence when making his plans and his plans could be adjusted depending on the circumstances, both positive and negative circumstances. The positive: a great door for effective work had opened for him.
That’s a nice metaphor – a big open door and on the other side, many opportunities to proclaim the Good News about the risen Messiah and teach those who responded. It made sense to remain in Ephesus while these opportunities were there.
And the negative: there were many who were opposing Paul in Ephesus. Paul was an apostle, one of the Lord’s representatives. He had a tremendous spiritual authority. A captain does not abandon his ship when the storm is raging. A general does not leave the battle when the enemy is attacking.
Paul had a plan to leave Ephesus and travel to Corinth. However, he would adjust his plan using logic, reason and intelligence depending on the circumstances. It was reasonable to stay in Ephesus until he took advantage of the many opportunities and until the opposition died down. It made sense to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost/Shavuot (think May), then travel to Macedonia and then to Corinth.
This is a good lesson for us: it’s right to make plans, and use logic, reason and intelligence to make our plans and adjust our plans according to the circumstances.
Paul expected the Corinthians to help him on his journey. The journey from Ephesus to Corinth was some 400 miles. When he arrived it might be early winter. He wanted to spend a significant amount of time with them, so he might spend the winter with them. Paul expected Messiah’s followers in Corinth to provide for him and his co-workers for those months. After that, Paul expected them to help him with the next part of his journey – which means giving him money for his journey. It is expected that God’s people support those who are doing the work of evangelism – missionaries and evangelists.
Next, like a general directing his officers and troops, the Lord’s representative gives instructions about the way they were to treat a team of men that would soon be visiting them. That team included Timothy. 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. Timothy had a Jewish mother and a father who was a Greek. When Paul met him, he was a young follower of Messiah, but respected by those who knew him. Paul wanted Timothy to join his evangelistic team, and wanted his Jewish identity affirmed, so he had Timothy circumcised, affirming his Jewish identity. Timothy faithfully worked for Paul and with Paul. He co-authored several of Paul’s letters. Two of Paul’s letters were written to Timothy. He served as a leader in various Christian communities. Paul loved Timothy and considered him to be like a son.
Paul knew that Timothy was young, and some older adults may look down on younger adults, and Paul did not want that to happen to Timothy while he was in Corinth. Age discrimination is a reality. Paul wanted the Corinthians to treat Timothy with the respect that he deserved, so that he could return to Paul, along with the other men, having had a good experience in Corinth.
Next the Rabbi gives them information about Apollos, who was in Ephesus with Paul. Apollos was a Messianic Jew from Alexandria, and a great Bible teacher. He had spent time teaching the community in Corinth. Many people looked to him as a great spiritual leader, and a visit from Apollos would be most welcome. 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. Like Paul, Apollos planned to go to Corinth, but did not think that the time was right – in spite of the strong urging of Paul. The good news was that Apollos planned to visit them when the time was right, and that news would have encouraged the Corinthians.
We live in a fallen world that is satanically controlled and is in rebellion against God and is under a curse. We are surrounded by enemies from without – evil angels and wicked men and women. And we battle temptations from within. Although we have a new nature, we battle temptations from the old nature. The Rabbi knows that Messiah’s followers who battle enemies without and weaknesses within need to be reminded to be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
Be on your guard: Always be alert to the dangers around you and within you. Don’t get complacent. Don’t let your guard down.
Stand firm in the faith: Don’t deviate from the truths of the Word of God. Stay true to them. Hold onto them. Never abandon them.
Be courageous (act like men); be strong: Men are designed by the mighty God to be strong and courageous; to be bold in the face of danger; to take risks. None of us, men or women, are to be intimidated by those who oppose us. Be bold for the Lord and for the Word of God. Take risks for the Gospel. Put yourself out there. Go outside your comfort zone.
Do everything in love. Fallen human nature does not do everything in love. The love of fallen human nature is limited. But God’s nature is different. He is full of love. He does everything in love. Love is selfless. Love acts for the sake of others, not for the sake of self. We are to be like God, acting for the good of others, not for the good of ourselves. That takes grace. That takes the filling of the Spirit.
The Rabbi commends some good men among them and gives Messiah’s followers instructions about the way they should relate to these good men. You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia. Being first to follow Messiah in a significant province like Achaia (think Greece) made the household of Stephanas special. There is special honor that goes with being first.
And there was more that made this family special. And they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. Not everyone who follows the Lord devotes themselves to help the Lord’s people. This family did, and by doing so, the men of the family had demonstrated that they were worthy to provide leadership. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it. May the Lord enable more and more of our families to devote themselves to serve the Lord’s people.
Men from this family traveled from Corinth to Ephesus, which was a long journey, help Paul and his team. 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. These men supplied what the rest of the Corinthians didn’t – the encouragement of their presence, and probably the encouragement of some financial support. This refreshed Paul’s spirit. This strengthened him at a deep level. How wonderful to have people who can supply what may be lacking and refresh the spirit.
Paul’s instructions about the way the Corinthians should treat these men: Such men deserve recognition. Recognize them as being worthy of respect.
When having contact with others, it’s good to greet those you are having contact with. A greeting expresses love, care and support. A greeting strengthens the relationship. The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Asia was a large province. How encouraging to know that there were many communities in Asia who wanted to communicate their love and friendship with the community in Corinth. That knowledge could only strengthen the Corinthians to continue serving the Lord and proclaiming the Good News in spite of opposition.
Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. After arriving in Corinth, Paul met Aquila and his wife, Priscilla. Aquila was a Messianic Jew, and Priscilla probably was too. They helped Paul while he was there. Paul stayed with them, and made tents with them to support himself. After that, Aquila and Priscilla left Corinth and moved to Ephesus, but continued serving the Lord. A group of the Lord’s followers met in their house in Ephesus.
How encouraging to know that Aquila and Priscilla were still serving the Lord, and sent the Corinthians, not just regular greetings, but warm greetings – because this faithful couple still loved the Corinthians. And how encouraging to know that it wasn’t just Aquila and Priscilla, but the community that met at their house that also sent them greetings.
Ephesus was a large city with a growing Christian Community. All of Messiah’s followers in Ephesus wanted the Corinthians to know that they cared for them. That’s encouraging. All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings.
The Corinthian community was experiencing divisions. Like two men who have been fighting with each other come together and shake hands, they needed to end their divisions and greet one another with a holy kiss. Greeting each other with a holy kiss expressed love and unity.
A personal touch adds meaning. Paul may not have written this long letter by himself. He may have used a scribe, but he wanted them to know that he wrote this final greeting himself. I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. By writing this greeting with his own hand, the Corinthians should understand that he was personally invested in them. He cared for them; he was committed to them.
There are people who pretend to love the Lord, but don’t love the Lord. They are not the Lord’s loyal friends and allies. They are His enemies who harm the Lord’s interests and His people. That is a very bad state to be in, and if they don’t turn from their sinful state, they will surely be punished. If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Do you love the Lord? Really? Truly?
Our hope is not for an easy, comfortable, pleasant life in this world. Our hope is to be united to our Lord Yeshua when He returns and enjoy life in His kingdom. Therefore our desire, and the prayer of every follower of Messiah should be: Come, Lord!
Until He comes, we desperately need His help. We desperately need His grace. And that is Paul’s final prayer for them. The grace of the Lord Yeshua be with you.
Some of the Corinthians had been opposing Paul, criticizing him and his leadership. In spite of that, Paul wants them to know that he loves all of them. My love to all of you in Messiah Yeshua. What a great servant of God.
Paul ends this letter with Amen. Usually the word “amen” is used at the end of a prayer. When we say, “amen” we mean: what has been prayed is faithful and true, and we agree with it and Lord, You should answer the prayer. By ending this letter with “amen,” the Rabbi is affirming that what he has written is true – that he loves all of them; and that everything in this letter is faithful and true. We should believe all of it and treasure all of it and act on all of it. And, if you agree, please say amen.
Father, help us take to heart these lessons about giving money. Help us be organized in our giving, using our money to help Your people, support the proclamation of the Good News and other worthy causes. Help us to honor You with our money.
Father, help us to use logic, reason and intelligence to make our plans and adjust our plans according to the circumstances.
Help us be on guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
Help more and more of us devote ourselves to serve the Lord’s people.
Help us to be like Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus so that we may be able to supply what may be lacking, and refresh the spirit of others.
Help us to look for ways to greet and encourage others. Help us learn to add that personal touch that adds warmth and meaning to a gesture.
Help us to set our hope, not on a comfortable life in this world, but to be united to our Lord Yeshua when He returns. Help our desire to and prayer to be: Come, Lord!
Father, we need help. We need grace – a lot of it. May the grace of the Lord Yeshua be with us.