For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

16:1.  “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.”

Paul now takes up the matter of the collection of money for the relief of the believers in Jerusalem, they having been impoverished by the Jews who persecuted them just because they were Christians.  That persecution included death, imprisonment, confiscation of their possessions, and denial of the right to buy or sell, and find employment. 

The Apostle had already instructed the Galatian churches relative to this collection, and his advice to the Corinthian saints is that they follow that same order, the gist of which follows.  See also 2 Co 8,9.

16:2.  “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”

It is generally recognized that those instructions contain principles relative to the presentation of our offerings to God, and first is the designation of the day.  It is to be on the first day of the week, which links it with the Lord’s supper, and many believers avail themselves of the opportunity, not only to present their verbal worship on that day, but to offer also as a practical expression of that worship, a monetary offering proportionate to the measure of God’s blessing, that money to be used personally by the offerer, for the Lord’s work, or by the elders, as the Spirit may direct.

From this it is axiomatic that unbelievers have no part in such giving, since they have no place at the Lord’s table, a further very obvious truth being that God is not going to accept such monetary offerings from believers who refuse to obey His order relative to the presentation of their oral worship.  The  obvious conjunction of giving with the Lord’s supper removes any question as to the truth that such giving is a component of worship.

It is to be noted relative to giving during this Church age, that in contrast with that of law, no amount is specified, and that raises the obvious question, How much ought to be given?  Under law, in addition to the mandatory tenth, there were several other mandatory offerings, e.g., first-fruits, and in addition, such free-will offerings as the individual might feel led to bring.  If this was so under law, surely we who have become the recipients of infinitely greater blessings, dare not offer less.

The laying by in store has literal reference to earth, but there is no question that God would have us “lay by in store” relative to eternity, and such “laying by” involves much more than money, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth ... but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Mt 6:19-20).  It is strange that those who see the need of sacrificing something now in order to have a “nest egg” for the future, fail to understand that the same principle applies also to eternal things.  We will have treasure in heaven only in proportion to what we are willing to give up of this world now.

16:3.  “And  when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.”

Some manuscripts indicate that it would be Paul who would write the letters of commendation for those approved by the elders, and in the need of such letters we are being reminded that the handling of the assembly money should always be in such fashion as to remove even the appearance of impropriety, and also to avoid putting temptation in any brother’s way.

16:4.  “And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.”

This indicates the possibility of Paul’s going with those commended.

16:5.  “Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia.”

It seems that Paul’s original intention had been to first visit the Corinthians, then proceed to Macedonia, and then visit Corinth again on his return journey, but 2 Co 1:23 indicates that he changed that plan because of his desire to spare them the shame of having him arrive in their midst only to have firsthand experience of the disorders addressed in this first letter.  His hope appears to have been that his letter would bring about such reformation as would make further rebuke unnecessary.  In this we see something of the grace that characterized the Apostle.

16;6.  “And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go.”

Paul’s uncertainty as to what he would do, is not to be construed as an aimless activity that left everything to mere chance.  It declares rather, his complete submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit even though that leading required him to walk a step at a time ignorant of the Spirit’s plans for the next day.  The Church would be in a far healthier state were that same submissive spirit to mark, not only the evangelists, elders, and teachers today, but all of us.

The reference to their bringing him on his journey reminds us that it is the duty and privilege of all of us to minister to the temporal needs of those who have been called to forsake secular employment in order to devote all of their time to the Lord’s work.

16:7.  “For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit.”

Paul’s decision to forego visiting them just then may have been for the reason suggested above, though we can’t dismiss the possibility that he also realized that more than a brief visit would be needed to correct the many disorders plaguing the assembly.  And again his complete submission to God’s will is declared in the words “if the Lord permit.”

16:8.  “But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.” 

Besides Paul’s possible wish to keep the feast of Pentecost at Ephesus, there is the fact that at that time there was a month-long festival of games and festivities in honor of Diana, the goddess of the Ephesians, and since there would be multitudes of visitors in the city for the event, he may have felt impelled to avail himself of the opportunity to make the Gospel known to those visitors.  As it had been in Jerusalem at the Feast of Pentecost mentioned in Ac 2, when the multitudes gathered there heard the Gospel, and carried it back to their own countries, so apparently would it be in the present instance.  The hearers would be the means of spreading the Gospel further afield than would have been possible by Paul’s personal efforts to reach all the countries represented by those who would be assembled in Ephesus for the games.

16:9.  “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.”

The “great door” undoubtedly has reference to the numbers who would hear the Gospel, while “effectual” appears to relate to the effectiveness of that same Gospel in bringing many of the hearers to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s mention of the “many adversaries” would almost seem to indicate his eagerness to confront them with the truth, and confound their evil work, even though he was thereby exposing himself, not just to physical and verbal abuse, but to death itself.  Such courage rebukes our own timidity.

16:10.  “Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.”

16:11.  “Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren.”

This command was very probably impelled by the knowledge that Timothy’s youth was likely to result in his being despised, see 1 Tim 4:12 “Let no man despise thy youth”, and the fear cannot refer to any concern for the young man’s safety, but to the possibility that his message would also be despised.  Young he might be, but he was no less God’s servant doing the Lord’s work, than was Paul himself.

16:12.  “As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.”

Paul’s desire to have Apollos visit the Corinthians assures us that there was no rivalry or jealousy between these two servants of God.  They worked together in harmony, not jealous of each other’s gift, but eager to promote the cause of Christ, in the realization that the gift God had given each was to complement the work of the other.  It would be well if that same spirit marked all of God’s servants.

Nor should Apollos’ unwillingness to visit Corinth be construed either as disagreement with Paul, or of the exercise of his own will regardless of God’s, but rather, that he discerned that it wasn’t God’s will for him to go at that particular time.

16:13.  “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”

The command to watch speaks of the need to be on constant guard against the wiles of Satan, his watchfulness for an opportunity to do us harm being matched by equally diligent care on our part against his attacks.

The need to “stand fast in the faith” reminds us of the need to be firm, courageous, constant, so that nothing may ever be permitted to shake our faith.  The need for this injunction is declared by the frequency with which many of life’s circumstances do shake our faith.  The safeguard against all such wavering is found in the assurance that, “... all things work together for good to them that love God” (Ro 8:28). 

If in the “stand fast” we have the negative side of our warfare, in the “quit you like men” we have the positive.  In this conflict with the powers of darkness there is need for activity in pressing the attack rather than just repelling the foe when he attacks us.  This active warfare occurs when we preach the Gospel and teach sound doctrine, for both are an invasion of the enemy’s domain.  And as for being strong, we are reminded of Paul’s further exhortation, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Eph 6:10), that strength and power being ours only as we are willing to confess our own weakness, and claim God’s power, as the Apostle also reminds us God’s strength “is made perfect in weakness” (2 Co 12:9), so that every believer can say, “When I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Co 12:10),” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Php 4:13).

16:14.  “Let all things be done with charity (love).”

Vine’s comments on this verse are worth noting.  He writes, “not ‘with love’, but ‘in love’, not with the accompaniment of love, but in the very element and atmosphere of love,” the thirteenth chapter of this same letter reminding us of the worthlessness of anything done without love as the impelling motive.

16:15.  “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,)”

16:16.  “That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with me, and laboreth.”

The description of the household of Stephanas as being “the firstfruits of Achaia” does not contradict Ro 16:5, for in regard to the latter it is generally recognized that the better translation is not Achaia, but Asia.  Their having devoted themselves to ministering to the needs of believers should remind us that this is a work to which every believer ought to give himself; while crowned (the meaning of Stephanas) reminds us that all such work will be crowned with blessing at the Bema.

Paul’s “submit yourselves unto such” is not to be taken to imply that such ministry carried with it the right to assume a place of authority over other believers (such a thought is foreign to the teaching of Scripture), but rather, that all who devote themselves to actively furthering the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, are to be held in high esteem, and assisted in their ministry by every possible means.

16:17.  “I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaiacus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied.”

16:18.  “For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.” 

“... lacking on your part” is generally understood, not to imply neglect of Paul by the Corinthian church, but rather their lack of opportunity, on account of the distance separating them.  This makes it clear that Paul set great value on the fellowship he enjoyed with the Corinthian saints.  And while we can easily see how his spirit would be refreshed by the visit of these three brethren, it is less clear how that visit might have refreshed the spirits of the Corinthians themselves.  The explanation most generally accepted is that the visit, assuring Paul of their love for him, would bring them the assurance of his reciprocal love, for he would understand that they had accepted his righteous rebuke, something he might well have been in doubt of until the arrival of Stephanas and his two companions.

And again, we should note the exhortation to appreciate the worth of those willing to minister to others, especially when that ministry involves considerable inconvenience to the ministers.

16:19.  “The churches of Asia salute you.  Aquilla and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.”

Since Aquilla and Priscilla had once lived in Corinth, see Ac 18:2, they would be known to many of the believers there, hence the words “salute or greet you much.”

The fact that the church meetings were held in the home of this faithful couple, reminds us, not only that the churches were small, but also that simplicity and intimacy characterized those early assemblies.  That character is conspicuously absent from the assemblies today, due largely to the almost universal obsession with numbers, and lack of loving devotion to the Lord and to everything pertaining to His kingdom.

We might note in passing, incidentally, the comment of Vine relative to the words “in the Lord.”  He writes, “The phrase ‘in the Lord’ has reference to matters pertaining to the life of the believer here in the world; ‘in Christ’ has reference to the spiritual and Heavenly life and position.”

16:20.  “All the brethren greet you.  Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.”

We can’t read this without being impressed with the loving concern believers had for one another in that early day, but neither can we be blind to the fact that even then, first love was beginning to wane, for the exhortation to greet one another with a “holy kiss”, seems to imply that in some cases at least the greetings between the saints had become a mere formality just the same as those exchanged by the unconverted, for it is to be remembered that in those days, and in that society, a kiss was the usual form of greeting.  It is sad that the coldness just beginning to set in in that early day, has become virtually universal amongst God’s people, the coldness of our greetings being but the evidence of the lack of love in our hearts, and that in spite of the Lord’s words as recorded in Jn 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

It is to be noted that the command is to have love to one another, not for one another.  God doesn’t command us to have the same love for all believers as we have for those we love in the commonly accepted meaning of the word.  That would make obedience impossible, but He says “have love one to another.”  That is a very different matter, for it requires me to act towards every believer in love, i.e., to treat him as though he were indeed the object of my love in the commonly accepted meaning of the word.  The unlovable believer is to be treated in exactly the same manner as the lovable.

16:21.  “The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand.”

The actual writing of this closing salutation with Paul’s own hand implies that the writing of the rest of the letter had been done by an amanuensis, and tends to confirm that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” may have been poor sight.  

16:22.  “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema.  Maranatha.”

Though there is no period in the KJ version between Anathema accursed, and Maranatha the Lord comes, it is generally accepted that there should be one.  It is the solemn reminder that genuine saving faith is accompanied by genuine love for the Lord, manifesting itself in obedience, as He Himself has declared, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).  Lack of obedience indicates lack of love for the Lord, and without that love which is the hallmark of a genuine conversion, the man is accursed, his eternal dwelling place being, not heaven, but the lake of fire.

The fact that Maran-atha (two words) meaning “The Lord cometh,” comes immediately after “Anathema,” may be to remind us of the certainty and nearness of the Lord’s coming.  It behooves every man to examine himself in the light of that coming, and to be sure that he is ready for it, because for the believer it will be followed by the judgment seat of Christ; and for the unbeliever who has heard, but neglected or rejected the Gospel, it will end any hope of salvation, see 2 Thes 2:10-12.

16:23.  “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

Grace resembles mercy, but goes far beyond it, for whereas mercy speaks merely of just punishment withheld, grace speaks of unmerited blessing freely bestowed.  In invoking the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ Paul was expressing his desire that the Corinthian saints might be the recipients of such blessing.

16:24.  “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.  Amen.”

It is doubtful whether any man has ever displayed the love of Christ as has Paul.  In spite of having had to rebuke their sin, he never ceased to love them, and as Vine points out, the love was not that of mere human emotion: it was a reflection of Divine love.




     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough