At the end of his long letter to the church at Corinth, Paul talks about administrative matters and reveals his plans, or lack thereof, about his future visits. Throughout the letter, we see Paul trying to address various reports of disorder and misconduct that were brought to his attention. He dealt with problems related to the sanctity of marriage to the sanctity of the worship order, but ended on a positive note, hoping to see the congregation soon when he would make one of his trips to Macedonia.
Paul’s focus seems to be on the collection as the church had backtracked on their words many times and even went on a rant earlier in this same letter about the believers not keeping their commitment to the missionary work. The church in Corinth would have been part of the haves, when compared to the struggling churches in other parts of the world. According to Paul it was their responsibility to support the churches back home in Jerusalem as they received the Gospel through the Jews (2 Corinthians 8). There also might have been a famine back home in Jerusalem causing a dire need for supplies in Paul’s homeland.
However, given the problems that the church of Corinth were engulfed in, it might not have been wise for Paul to depend on them for any monetary or spiritual support. The tone of his letter and especially his final greetings clearly shows that Paul did not depend on the rebellious congregation for any spiritual support. But when it came to the funding for his journeys, he still relied deeply on them. Even today rural churches depend on their urban counterparts for support. We have stopped supporting our fellow believer’s spiritual needs but satisfy ourselves by supporting them financially. Unlike Paul, the leaders today don’t want to correct similar problems in their churches lest they might feel the wrath of their congregation by means of reduced collection. This over-dependence on the provisions of the wicked gives them a free pass to continue in their ways and corrupt the entire congregation. Even Paul fell for this trap when he kept on depending on the wicked Corinthians to provide for his missionary journeys. Let us depend on God as our sole provider and not worry when expelling the wicked amongst us (1 Corinthians 5:13).
Paul vaguely reveals his future plans but did not make any commitments regarding his return to Corinth. He was sending Timothy to them, probably with another letter and gave special instructions to the church to take care of Timothy’s needs and not treat him with contempt.
The church was notorious for mistreating the workers of God who did not meet their ‘standards’. They were happy with the heavyweights like Peter and Apollos but as they did with Paul they mistreated and questioned anyone less. Paul was probably sending Timothy with his letter and bring back offerings, so he did not want him to face any unnecessary problems during his stay with the corrupt folks of Corinth.
Paul writes about Apollos and encourages them to be strong and stand firm in their faith. He cites the impact that Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus had in refreshing his spirit and wanted them to be recognized by the church.
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it.1 Corinthians 16:15-16
Paul was trying to bring discipline and order in the church and did not trust anyone among the church to lead others on the path of God. Everyone was lacking in some manner and Paul did not want the church to rot because of bad leadership. In an ideal scenario the people of God do not need any mediator to connect with Him but Paul wanted someone to mediate as he did not trust the church of Corinth. Our leaders are important instruments in the hand of God who have led us through our early days. However there is a time that we should let go of our dependence on them and hold on to God’s hand ourselves.
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.1 Corinthians 16:19
Aquila and Priscilla were associates of Paul about whom we read in the book of Acts (Acts 18:2). The early church would meet in houses of the first believers of the town. There was no particular structure that was called church but the congregation of people was the church of God. The beauty of intimate gatherings have been forgotten due to the feasibility of such meetings in our big cities but the church was started with the intention of small group of people meeting every day to encourage each other and worship their maker.
If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!1 Corinthians 16:22
It is in our intrinsic nature to condemn anyone who rejects God. One can hope that Paul was talking about the people who had rejected God or were giving lip service to Him rather than the ones for whom the salvation had not yet come. Judgement only belongs to God and it is our job to be empty vessels in His hands. God pours His new wine through us on anyone He chooses. It is not our job to second guess His decisions and be a stumbling block on someone’s road to salvation. Let us learn from the bitter experience of Paul and his fellowship with the Corinthians that we should not depend on human beings for love and compassion but on God for His grace and mercy.
V2: Why was Paul so particular about the collection?
V10: Why did Paul give special instructions for Timothy?
V16: Should we be submitting to anybody but God?
V19: Why was the church meeting in houses?
V22: Why is Paul cursing the ones who do not love God? Isn’t that defeating the purpose of his missionary journeys?