The Church in Jerusalem was struggling. They had suffered intense persecution and it was probably difficult for a Christian to find employment. Paul himself had once been eager to imprison any he found
1 On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
So other churches sent money to help them. The Church in Corinth wanted to give too and had obviously asked Paul how best to do it. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians 9:10 he says Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.
1 Corinthians 16
1 Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 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.
We have to remember that these were fledgling churches with no traditional form of service; ‘Taking a collection’ was a new idea! But it was a sensible way to put money aside ready for it to be taken safely to Jerusalem.
That was a concern too – there was no banking system and cash had to be physically transported.
3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.
There was still a great deal of suspicion surrounding the Jerusalem church and even though they were bringing gifts, the foreigners from Corinth would need letters of introduction from Paul before they could be accepted. It may even mean that Paul would have to go with them.
(Paul was to write extensively to the Corinthians about giving in his next letter – chapters 8 and 9.)
5 After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you – for I will be going through Macedonia. 6 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. 7 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. 8 But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.
Why is there always opposition when the Gospel is preached effectively?
Satan usually prefers the subtle approach, but when a Christian is working effectively for the Lord, he will attack quite openly!
10 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. 11 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.
Why might Timothy be treated with contempt?
Timothy was a young man and there was a danger that as he didn’t have the status of Paul, Peter, or Apollos, the people in the church at Corinth might look down on him.
12 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.
‘Now about . . . .’ It seems that the Corinthians had asked Paul when Apollos could visit them again, but Apollos was very reluctant.
Why do you think that was?
Possibly he was aware that he was partly to blame for the factions within the church and he didn’t want to be the cause of further trouble.
13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.
Paul has just reminded himself of the purpose of writing this letter, so he gives a very brief précis!
15 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, 16 to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labours at it. 17 I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.
I thought I could get away with saying that Paul now rounds off his letter by recognising some for personal mention, and giving a general benediction – BUT! What do we understand by verse 17 ‘they have supplied what was lacking from you’?
19 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. 20 All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.
22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!
Paul wasn’t very good at writing, (See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! Galatians 6:11) but it was recognisable, and a guarantee that the letter was authentic.
V 22 seems harsh, but Paul was concerned that everyone faced up to the truth. Paul was an evangelist, and was only too aware that those who don’t know and love the Lord Jesus face a lost eternity.
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.
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