Thu, Jul 29, 2004

I CORINTHIANS 16

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.

I CORINTHIANS

 

            Please turn in your Bibles this evening to I Corinthians chapter 16 as we continue our study through the Word of God and we finish up this letter of rebuke and correction to the Corinthian church.  As we concluded our study last week Paul was admonishing the Corinthian believers as he said, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  I Corinthians 15:58.

            In other words Paul is saying that in light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ which was predicted in the Old Testament and over 500 saw the risen Lord, since He rose from the dead, since He conquered death, so will we.  Our bodies will be resurrected, glorified one day and thus, don’t give up, keep laboring for the Lord.  Work hard because all that you do for the Lord is not in vain, it is not empty, but it will accomplish what God desires.  Now as we move into chapter 16 Paul is going to give to them an opportunity to put into practice this laboring for the Lord and he is going to speak of their giving, the offerings they were making.  With that said, let’s begin reading in verse 1 of I Corinthians chapter 16 and let’s see what the Lord has for us this evening.

I CORINTHIANS 16

 

VERSES 1-2

            The church in Jerusalem was in need.  Besides the persecution, there was a famine in the land according to Acts 11:27-28.  To put it bluntly, they were hurting big time!  Thus, as Paul went through the churches in Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia he was obtaining a collection to help these saints out.  Keep in mind that these churches were primarily Gentile in nature and thus, as they gave this gift to their brothers and sisters in the Lord who were in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers, it would help break down the walls of division that were there.  If you remember from out study in Romans, Paul spoke of the Gentiles being in debt to the Jews for all the riches they had given to them spiritually speaking, the things of God.  Paul said, But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.  For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.  It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.”  Romans 15:25-27.

            Sadly, today, there are those who use churches for a type of welfare program or just to get something for nothing and they go from church to church.  In fact I have had organizations warn me of people who are doing this.  That is not what the church is about; it is not a welfare program. Yes, the church is to help those in need, (James 1:27) but there is more to it than that.  The church must also determine who is in need, (I Timothy 5:3).  If a person can work and doesn’t want to work or is just plain lazy, then they are not to be supported by the church.  Paul, in II Thessalonians 3:10-11 tells us, For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.  For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.  (I Thessalonians 4:11, I Timothy 5:8).  And let me say this, what a horrible witness for Christians who are in the ministry and use the welfare program of the state so they don’t have to work.  That is wrong and it is a horrible witness, look at the example of Paul, he worked and was in the ministry!  Also, if their own family can support them, then the church should not help them, (I Timothy 5:3-4).  If the church supports someone then they need to help the church out by the giving of their time, their skills, (I Timothy 5:5, 10).  And ultimately it is up to the leaders in the church, spiritual men to evaluate the need, even the moral conduct before giving out any support, (I Timothy 5:9-13).  It is not easy but it does need to be evaluated and I have, or I should say the Lord showed me some who were just using the church for their support, their lifestyle, their story was made-up and we did not help them out.

            Now in saying that, should we then just give money to help those in need instead of supporting the church?  Absolutely not!  Paul said in I Timothy 5:17, Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.  Yes, we do have a responsibility to help those in need but our primary responsibility is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ or we will just become a social institution, feeding peoples stomachs and starving them spiritually speaking.

            Some like to argue that since we don’t worship the Lord on the Sabbath, on Saturday, we have taken the mark of the beast and we are dammed to Hell!  Give me a break.  Paul says here that they met on the first day of the week which was Sunday, Resurrection Day and that was the practice of the early church.  Let me say this, my worship of the Lord is not limited to one day of the week, it is every day and one day is not better than another.  If you want to have church service on Saturday, great, for us, Sunday works best.  In fact, Paul said in Colossians 2:16-17, So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.  Don’t miss what it is all about, not the day of the week, but Christ, He is the substance of our worship!  Poole put it this way, “It is plain from hence, that the gospel churches were wont to assemble upon that day, [Sunday] nor do we read in Scripture of any assembly of Christians for religious worship on any other day.”

            This offering was above and beyond what was normally given to the church and as you read these verses it would seem that the giving to the Lord was a normal part of their worship service. Now the question is, “How much do we give?”  Some say that our tithes should be 10%, I don’t happen to agree with that, I don’t see it in the New Testament.  In fact, in the Old Testament the total that was given to the Lord was about 23%.  (10% - Leviticus 27:30, Numbers 18:21; 10% - Deuteronomy 14; and every third year 10% - Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

            So then what do we give?  I think Paul gives to us the principle that we should follow in II Corinthians 9:6-7, But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.  So do we give more or less than 10% or just 10%?  YES!  Give out of a cheerful heart because God will not accept anything if it is given with the wrong motives.  We should not give grudgingly or out of compulsion.  In fact, Paul wants the church to take care of this specific offering before he gets there so no one is pressured to give.

            One more point regarding our giving before we move on.  In regards to our giving God challenges us to test Him, to prove Him and He rebukes those who are robbing Him of what is His in Malachi 3:8-11, ‘Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!  But you say, “In what way have we robbed You?”  In tithes and offerings.  You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,’  Says the LORD of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.  And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,’ Says the LORD of hosts.  God has blessed this church above and beyond, it seems the more we give to spread the Gospel, the more He provides for us.  We have seen how the Lord is faithful to His Word, but that is not the reason we give, we give to see people saved, to get God’s Word out. But God won’t force you.  Proverbs 11:24 says, And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty.  And in Proverbs 3:9-10 we are told, Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.  If you want to increase your resources, give generously, if you want to decrease your resources, then hoard them!

VERSES 3-4

            Paul wants them to choose a representative to go to Jerusalem with this gift, a show of love towards the Jews, as they would represent the Gentile church in Corinth.  Interestingly enough, the word that Paul uses for gifts is CHARIS, which speaks of a free gift; they did not want anything in return.

VERSES 5-9

            Keep in mind that Paul wrote this letter in Ephesus on his third missionary journey.  Also, Paul established the church in Corinth on his second missionary journey and you can read of that in Acts chapter 18.  He spent 1½ year’s there sharing the Gospel and establishing the church.  His desire was to go to Corinth but he leaves it in the Lord’s hands, as He wills!

            Paul spent some 3 years in Ephesus on his third missionary journey and he tells us that a door of opportunity opened up for him there to minister the Gospel, (Acts 18:23-19:41).  How did Paul know this was a door of opportunity for him? Because when he arrived they rolled out the red carpet, they gave to him the keys of the city and-so-on!  Not exactly, in fact Paul tells us he had great opposition there, there were many adversaries there trying to stop him.

In fact, in II Corinthians 1:8-10 Paul said, For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: [which is the Roman province in which Ephesus was located] that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.  Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us.

Too often people see adversity and they run or trying to be spiritual they say, “The Lord closed the door.”  Not all the time as we see here.  Think about it, if you have much adversity it must mean the Devil doesn’t like what you are doing and if you are just breezing through life without a problem, maybe the Devil isn’t worried about what you are doing!  G. Campbell Morgan put it this way: “If you have no opposition in the place you serve, you’re serving in the wrong place.” Let’s face it, when you are serving the Lord, ministering to the lost you may begin to ruffle some feathers and that is not necessarily bad!

            Let me also say this, let us not be so rigid in our daily schedules that Divine appointments become a nuisance and an irritation that just wrecks our day!  God knows what He is doing and if He is going to interrupt your day, it is for a reason and He will take care of the time from your studies or whatever, as I have found out!

VERSES 10-11

            According to Acts 19:22 Paul sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia and then Timothy was to go down to Corinth. Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus who brought Paul a letter from the church in Corinth in the first place probably delivered this letter to the Corinthians.  Some feel that Timothy was also involved in bringing this letter to Corinth.  Now in sending Timothy to Corinth Paul is concerned that they would not respect him as they did not respect Paul or even the other Apostles as Paul told us in I Corinthians 4:6-13, Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?  You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us -- and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!  For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.  We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!  To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.  And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure;  being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.  Thus, Paul is giving them a heads up in regards to respecting Timothy when he comes!

VERSE 12

            Paul urged Apollos to go to Corinth and minister to the brethren but Apollos felt it was not the right time, so he stayed back.  So Paul forced him to go?  Not at all, Paul encouraged Apollos and then left it up to him, it was his decision and Paul felt he was mature; God would guide him. Of this Ironside said, “I would not like to tear this chapter out of my Bible. It helps me to understand God’s way of guiding His servants in their ministry for Him.”  Some ask me what they should do in a situation, and unless it is sinful, goes against God’s Word, I tell them to pray and God will direct.  I may give some advice, but I will not tell someone what they should do, that is up to God!

VERSES 13-14

            Why this exhortation to watch, to stand fast, to be brave or really act like a man, to be strong?  Because false teachers are out there and they are looking for those who are not watching, for those who are not standing fast, who are not brave, who are not strong so they can devour them with their lies!  Of this Clarke tells us:

            “The terms in this verse are all military: Watch ye, watch, and be continually on your guard, lest you be surprised by your enemies . . . Stand fast in the faith – Keep in your ranks; do not be disorderly; be determined to keep your ranks unbroken; keep close together . . . Quit yourselves like men – When you are attacked, do not flinch; maintain your ground; resist; press forward; strike home; keep compact; conquer . . . Be strong - if one company or division be opposed by too great a force of the enemy, strengthen that division, and maintain your position . . . summon up all your courage, sustain each other; fear not, for fear will enervate [weaken] you.”

            Isn’t it amazing what some Christians believe, the false doctrine on some things, and the reason is simple, they were not prepared for the battle, they were not ready.  Paul tells us in II Timothy 2:1-15, You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.  You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.  And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.  The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops.  Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.  Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.  This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him.  If we endure, We shall also reign with Him.  If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.  Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

            The key to this section is that all we do must be done in love, AGAPE love or else all that we do is meaningless in the eyes of the Lord and in the eyes of others.

VERSES 15-18

            Achaia was the Roman province that extended over central and southern Greece, of which Corinth was the capital.  The household of Stephanas was the first converts for Paul in this area and we are told in I Corinthians 1:16, Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other.  Now as some read that they believe Paul is speaking of infants also being baptized because it speaks of the household of Stephanas. Again, we need to look at the totality of the Scriptures and what they say, not just pick one verse. First of all, in Acts 2:38 we are told by Peter, “ . . . ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”  And in Acts 18:8 we are told, Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.

And here in I Corinthians 16:15, in speaking of the household of Stephanas, that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” means that Paul is not speaking of infants because they are involved in ministry, they are devoted to service and think about it, how many infants are involved in ministry?  They can’t even repent of their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!  You see, it takes a lot just to figure out if they are hungry, want their diaper changed or who knows, and thus, infants are not baptized into the faith until they grow and can repent of their sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!  And baptizism is just a declaration of what you believe, it doesn’t save you, Jesus does!

            Think about this, it just makes sense.  One of the primary qualifications for church leadership is the willingness to serve.  I know that sounds funny but many like the title, not the work.  Not the household of Stephanas, they had no title but they just served!  In fact, the worddevoted is TASSO (tas’-so) in the Greek and it means, “to set in order.”  In fact, this word is so powerful that in the King James Version this verse goes like this, I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,). I Corinthians 16:15.  William Barclay writes, “In the early church willing and spontaneous service was the beginning of official office.  A man became a leader of the church not so much by any man-made appointment as because his life and work marked him out as one whom all men must respect. All those who share the work and toil of the gospel command respect, not because they have been appointed by man to an office but because they are doing the work of Christ.”

            Interestingly enough Fortunatus and Achaicus were common names for slaves and Stephanas may have been their owner, their master at one time.  But now they are free in Christ and they are brothers in the Lord!

            When these men arrived they refreshed his spirit seeing their love for the Lord even though this letter that was brought to Paul had some very disturbing things that Paul had to address.  When you meet the brethren are you refreshing to them or sour?  Do you help build the fire or rekindle the fire or do you douse it completely by what you say?  I have known people who are like that, by the time you are done talking with them you are ready to end it all!  Not these men, they lifted Paul’s spirits, they refreshed his soul, and may we do that to others as we spend time with them.

VERSES 19-20

            Asia spoke of Asia Minor today, the churches that Jesus wrote letters to in Revelation chapters 2 & 3, and Ephesus was the capital.  Paul tells the Corinthians that the brethren send their greetings along with Aquila and Priscilla, some of Paul’s dearest friends.  This couple fled Rome in 49 AD when Claudius issued an edict ordering the expulsion of all Jews from the city and they fled to Corinth where they met up with Paul and spent 1½ year’s with him there.  They traveled to Ephesus where they established a home church, continuing to serve the Lord.  Thus, the Corinthian believers knew this couple and Aquila and Priscilla are sending their greetings to them in Corinth!

            This holy kiss was a Jewish custom that was picked-up by the early church. Even today you see people from the Middle East greet people this way, with a kiss on the cheek.  Now if Paul were around today and writing a letter he might say, “Greet one another with a holy bear hug!”  Times change and so do greetings.

VERSES 21-23

            Paul dictated this letter to a secretary you might say but now Paul adds his own personal touch to this letter by his own handwriting.  Some feel Paul had a very bad eye condition and he couldn’t see very well and in Galatians 6:11 Paul tells us, See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!  Whatever the case, this is his own personal note to the Corinthian believers done in his own handwriting.

            If you don’t love the Lord then you will be cut off from Him!  I will guarantee you this, no one will be in heaven that doesn’t want to be there but everyone in Hell will not want to be there! Paul says then O Lord come! or MARANA THA, which is an Aramaic expression.  Those who love the Lord are waiting for His return.  Now in saying that some may comment, “You are so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good!”  I disagree, you can’t be any earthly good unless you are heavenly minded and knowing that the Lord is coming back soon just admonishes us to go forward with the Gospel message to see many enter into the kingdom before His return!

VERSE 24

            Paul wants the Corinthian believers to know, to understand that this letter of correction and rebuke was not done out of a heart of anger or hatred but out of love, AGAPE love.  It is as John tells us in I John 3:13-19, and this is from The Amplified Bible, Do not be surprised and wonder, brethren, that the world detests and pursues you with hatred.  We know that we have passed over out of death into Life by the fact that we love the brethren (our fellow Christians). He who does not love abides (remains, is held and kept continually) in [spiritual] death.  Anyone who hates (abominates, detests) his brother [in Christ] is [at heart] a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding ( persevering) within him. By this we come to know (progressively to recognize, to perceive, to understand) the [essential] love: that He laid down His [own] life for us; and we ought to lay [our] lives down for [those who are our] brothers [in Him].  But if anyone has this world's goods (resources for sustaining life) and sees his brother and  fellow believer in need, yet closes his heart of compassion against him, how can the love of God live and remain in him?  Little children, let us not love [merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity).  By this we shall come to know (perceive, recognize, and understand) that we are of the Truth, and can reassure (quiet, conciliate, and pacify) our hearts in His presence.

Paul not only spoke with words, but he lived what he believed, he practiced what he preached and it was all done in love.  Now some of the Corinthians received what Paul had to say, they repented and got right with God, they accepted his authority, and others did not.  Thus, in II Corinthians Paul is going to defend his authority and as we will see next week as we begin this letter, it is one of the most personal letters that Paul wrote, a letter showing us the heart of Paul, committed to the work of God, the building up of the body of Christ in love!  As we close this evening, let me leave you with these words, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  Or as The Amplified Bible puts it, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord], knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose].

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