The church in Jerusalem was hurting. Remember that ever since Paul was a young man, there had been horrible persecution going on against the church. Christians lost their jobs, their homes, and their land. They were in great need.
In addition to this suffering, a terrible famine had come upon the land. Remember that this had been prophesied in Acts 11.
Acts 11:27-30 Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.
Each of them, when they heard about the need, determined to help. And not just a quick "oh, I can afford five bucks." It says that they gave "in the proportion that any of them had means." As much as each was able, they sent financial relief.
Paul says, "When I get to Corinth, I don't want to take up a collection. I want you guys to be putting the money aside every Sunday, so I won't be begging for this money to help the body of Christ."
In the 1980's the begging televangelists really turned off the majority of the public. The name of Christ was blasphemed, the church fell into disrepute. And that was so very wrong. But it is also so very wrong for the genuine ministers of Christ to be put in a place that they must beg. As God prospers and provides for us, we are to put aside a portion of that money for the kingdom of God.
Paul didn't want his ministry to be based on money. It was an issue that he wanted taken care of long before he arrived. He wanted to spend the time he had with them teaching and encouraging them in the faith out of the Scriptures.
As God prospers and provides for you, put aside a portion for the kingdom of God.
Paul discussed his near-future plans with them, letting them know that he didn't just want to drop in for a quick visit. He wanted to devote some substantial time ministering to them.
Remember that Paul was writing the epistle of 1Corinthians from the city of Ephesus. He said he would stay there until after the Jewish holiday of Pentecost. Notice the two reasons why he wanted to stay in Ephesus: Service and adversaries.
Paul always had a servant's heart. He didn't go where he could be served. He always went where he could serve. Paul dedicated his life to preaching the gospel and serving those who came to believe. Paul served God, served the church, and served the saints. That is a great example for each of us. The Bible instructs us:
Gal. 5:13 ...Through love serve one another.
Remember that the book of Ephesians speaks of the ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers. Why do we have these people in the church?
Eph. 4:11-12 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ
If you're not serving, if you're not building up the body of Christ, either I'm not doing my job as a pastor/teacher, or you're not growing in Christ. That is what the church is for: serving one another.
I don't know WHERE God is calling you to serve, but I do know that He IS calling you to serve. So ask yourself today: "Where should I serve?"
Am I being prompted serve by visiting believers that are in jail?
Am I being prompted to serve by cleaning the church building for services?
Am I being prompted to serve the parents in the church by starting a Thursday night kid's ministry?
Am I being prompted to serve the minority of people that carry the majority of the church responsibility?
Am I being prompted to serve financially?
Am I being prompted to serve the men in the church by starting a men's ministry?
Am I being prompted to serve the teenagers in the church by starting a youth ministry?
I don't know WHERE God is calling you to serve, but I do know that He IS calling you to serve.
Paul was staying in Ephesus awhile longer because there were adversaries. That's amazing to me, because usually, that's our excuse for wanting to leave. Our instinct is to run away from adversaries. As soon as we encounter difficulty in our lives, we bail. As soon as someone sets themselves against us, we think that it's time to move on.
David was a good example for us. I can't think of a time when he didn't have adversaries. But his regular reaction was not to bail out, but to cry out.
Ps. 3:1, 3 O LORD, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me... But Thou, O LORD, art a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head.
Another encouragement is that if you are busy about the Lord's business and people begin to rise up against you, don't take it personally. Jesus told us in advance,
John 15:18-21 "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me."
Paul was in Ephesus during his third missionary journey. We read that
Acts 19:8-9 ...He entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus...
While Paul was preaching in the synagogue, adversaries began to rise up against him. Publicly harassing him and denying what he was preaching. It would have been so easy just to pack up and go on to the next city, but instead, he just found a new place and continued to teach for two more years. And look at the blessings that followed:
Acts 19:10-11 And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul
When adversaries come, don't bail out cry out. Don't give up look up. Paul was staying in Ephesus because there were adversaries.
Paul now fills them in on some other ministers' plans. Timothy might be coming through take care of him, he's a good man. Apollos won't be coming for a while, but when he is able, he will.
Paul, about to close the letter, gives them some final warnings, or exhortations, regarding the things that the Corinthian church is in danger of:
1Cor. 16:13-14 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
These things are a pretty good summary of the weaknesses in the Corinthian church.
Be on the alert. For what? Like we talked about in chapter 15, Paul had reminded them of the rapture. Jesus is coming like a thief in the night.
Matt. 24:44-46 "For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes."
Be on the alert. Dressed in readiness. Be busy about the Father's business. Don't grow sleepy. Don't be found bickering. Live in expectancy.
How can we stand firm?
Eph. 6:10-13 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
What is that armor? As we continue reading in Ephesians 6, we see that it is having a life marked by truth, righteousness, being prepared with the gospel, faith, salvation, and the Word of God. The Corinthians were lacking most of these things. How do you think you're faring as you read that list? You cannot be standing firm without the full armor of God.
Paul was addressing those guys in Corinth who were acting more like women than men. Outwardly, they were growing their hair long while their wives were cutting their hair short. Inwardly, they were becoming spiritually wimpy while their wives became the spiritual authorities in the house. Paul addressed all of that back in chapter 11. This is a parting reminder for these guys to shape up and be men of God.
This has really been the major point of Paul's letter, the conclusion that he came to with almost every subject he discussed. Love is the more excellent way. Instead of exercising your rights and arguing your points, you should be exercising love towards one another.
Stephanas and his family were among the first to be saved in Achaia. They had become people that served God and the body of Christ. If anyone should have had a following in Corinth, it was Stephanas. Paul said, "you should be in subjection to men like him men who teach you well, men who serve you well men who live a godly example for you. Not like these other divisive teachers you've latched onto. Be in subjection to men like Stephanas."
1Tim. 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.
Gal. 6:6 And let the one who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches.
Jesus encouraged us to follow good examples. He told the disciples,
John 13:15 "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you."
Paul told the Philippians,
Phil. 3:17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.
We should be in subjection to those who live godly in this worldly age imitating them as they imitate Christ.
Stephanas was the man to follow in Corinth. I am always amazed that Christians latch onto men who teach false doctrine, beg for money, live immoral lives, and cause division. We should be following humble, godly men. Men who serve the body, men who teach us correctly. Men like Stephanas.
Paul sends some personal greetings here from the folks in other churches. He also signs verse 21 himself. Remember that Sosthenes was writing as Paul dictated. To the Thessalonians, he wrote,
2Ths. 3:17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.
Paul's epistles were typically dictated to a writer, and he signed a quick note himself at the end. Many historians believe that Paul had some terrible eye problem. To the Galatians he said,
Gal. 4:15 ...I bear you witness, that if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.
It would seem from reading this that his eyes needed replacing. That is possible, for he signed that epistle,
Gal. 6:11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.
Another indication of problem eyesight.
Quite an in-your-face statement, isn't it? But as always, Paul is stating a simple fact. Jesus said in John 3,
John 3:36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
The gospel is not a world-view, a different perspective on life, or something that should be viewed as, "if it works for you, go for it." It is a choice that you make for all eternity. You choose salvation or damnation. If you don't love Jesus Christ, if you haven't been born again, if you haven't received the gospel, then the simple fact is, you will be accursed. That's not Paul condemning you. That's not me condemning you. You've condemned you.
Maranatha is a Greek phrase meaning "our Lord comes" or "the Lord will come." In the early church, it became a commonly used expression meaning, "Come Lord Jesus!"
Grace is God's unmerited favor. When you have God's grace, it means that God is pleased with you when you've done nothing pleasing. God has loved you while you were unlovable. God has saved you when you weren't worth saving.
We don't deserve grace, we could never do anything to earn grace, and we can't do anything to pay for grace.
Paul's mission in life was...
Acts 20:24 ...to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
That's how the gospel works: the grace of God comes to you through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.