1. Corinthians 16. - Plans for future

Erkki Koskenniemi

The collection to benefit the poor people of Jerusalem 16:1-4

The only agreement made at the Council of Jerusalem (the meeting of the Apostles), that Paul recognizes as binding on himself was “remembering the poor” (Gal 2:10). This call to assist the needy Jews had deep theological roots. The Gospel stemmed from Judaism, and the Gentile Christians were called to recognize this by giving a gift of love to the needy in the first Church of Jerusalem.

Paul wants to keep his own part of the contract and starts a collection, not for himself but for the poor people of Jerusalem who were facing starvation because of a famine (see also 2. Corinthians 8:1-7; Romans 15:25-29). In verses 1-4, Paul gives the Corinthians detailed instructions about the collection. Ensuring that this collection is taken up – and done well - is really important to Paul, and he states he doesn’t want to be disappointed by the share of money collected by the Corinthians.

Paul’s next visit 16:5-12

Paul plans to visit the Church in Corinth. He writes about going to Ephesus, from where he could make easy passage to Corinth, by boat. Paul, however, preferred to take the road, not travel by boat. Apparently, en route he was going to take care of the churches in Macedonia, Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea. Paul’s intention is to stay in Corinth for some time. We know from his second letter to the Corinthians that he had to leave the quarrelsome church quite quickly! (see Introduction)

Paul planned to linger in Ephesus until “Pentecost”. The Jews also celebrated Pentecost according to Ex. 23:15-22, fifty days after Easter. It is unclear whether Paul was talking about the Jewish Pentecost or the Christian festivities (the feast of the Holy Spirit). However it is clear what actually took place in Ephesus: Some believed the Gospel, while others rejected it.

We are not fully aware of what happened to Paul in Ephesus at this point (see 1. Cor 15:32). The book of the Acts of the Apostles does describe great riots (Acts 19). Paul was at home in such situations: he was used to people having a lot of enthusiasm either for or against the Gospel. Paul tells them that Timothy was probably coming to Corinth, whereas Apollos was waiting for a more opportune time. The early chapters (1-4) show how some Corinthians considered Apollos to be Paul’s competitor. Paul tries to show them that the missionaries were not competitors and were doing fine together. Apollos was independent from the Apostle Paul, and did not bow down to his fervent request, but nevertheless he was “brother Apollos” and Paul had nothing against his going to Corinth, quite the contrary. Apparently Corinth was at this time such a hot spot, however, that even Apollos didn’t want to put his head into such a hornet’s nest!

Invitations and Greetings 16:13-24

Before wrapping up the letter Paul offers a few more words of encouragement and guidance. “To be watchful” means that people were waiting for the Lord to arrive. The return of Christ was always present in Paul’s thought. He now connects this with the problems in Corinth (3:13) as well as the disputes about the resurrection (15).

Stephen, Achaicus and Fortunatus had been residing in Ephesus with Paul, and they would now take Paul’s letter to Corinth. The letter urges the recipients to give their full support to these men, and all those who are making an effort to build up the Church.

It is worth noting that the final verse 22 and a small word, Maranata, “Come, Lord, come!" is one of the first Christian prayers, which was echoed in the early Eucharistic services. Christians are always waiting for the return of the Lord. “Come, Lord, come!”