The contribution for the “holy ones” was intended for the poor Jewish believers in Jerusalem. In part, their poverty had resulted from the intense persecution to which they had repeatedly been subjected. (Compare Hebrews 10:32-34.) Regarding the contribution, Paul gave the same instructions to the Corinthians as he had to the congregations in the Roman province of Galatia, the boundaries of which were located in present-day Turkey. (16:1)
In keeping with their having prospered materially, Paul wanted them to set aside funds on the first day of the week for this contribution. Then, whenever he would again be in Corinth, the funds would be available, with no need to take a collection during his visit. (16:2)
Paul exercised great care to assure that believers who contributed to the relief effort could be confident that those in need would receive aid. Upon his arrival in Corinth, he planned to entrust the contribution to those whom the Corinthians approved with letters and to send them to the believers in Jerusalem. If it proved to be appropriate for him also to go there, the designated Corinthian representatives would accompany him. (16:3, 4)
Before his coming to Corinth in the province of Achaia, Paul intended to pass through Macedonia. (16:5) While in this province on the northern border of Achaia, he would be visiting communities of believers. (Compare 2 Corinthians 9:1-4.)
Paul had no specific plans about his future stay in Corinth. There was a possibility he would remain in the city for an extended period or even spend the winter there. Afterward he would have the Corinthians “send” him on his way (likely meaning equipped for the trip) to the next location. The apostle’s words (“wherever I may go”) indicate that he did not then know where he would be heading immediately after his stay in Corinth. (16:6)
Not wanting his visit with the Corinthians to be too brief, he opted not to see them just when passing through the area but hoped to spend some time with them. Paul recognized that his personal plans were conditional, adding, “if the Lord permits.” As an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, he was sensitive to his leading and providential direction. (16:7)
Until Pentecost in the month of Sivan (mid-May to mid-June), Paul had decided to remain in Ephesus, a city on the coast of the Roman province of Asia in what is today part of western Turkey. (16:8) This was because “a large door” for activity in Christ’s cause had opened up to him, but there were “many adversaries.” According to the book of Acts (19:8-10, 24-27), opposition came from Jews who persisted in unbelief and from devotees of the goddess Artemis. (16:9; see the Notes section.)
Earlier in this letter, Paul had mentioned that he would be sending Timothy (4:17), and here again he referred to his fellow worker’s coming. According to Acts 19:22, the apostle sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia, where they visited congregations. This indicates that Paul planned for Timothy to arrive in Corinth after completing his mission in Macedonia and after the Corinthians had received the letter. (16:10)
The apostle appears to have been very concerned about the kind of reception the congregation would give to his fellow worker. Timothy was young, and so likely would not have been regarded with the same respect as an older man. Considering that among the Corinthians certain ones even spoke disparagingly of him, Paul had good reason to be apprehensive about what Timothy might face, especially from the arrogant proponents of false teaching. The apostle admonished the Corinthians to accept Timothy in a manner that would not cause him to become fearful (as would have been the case if they resisted his efforts to assist them, showed disregard for him on account of his youth, and proved to be argumentative). They were to keep in mind that he, like Paul, was doing the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This called for them to treat Timothy kindly as one who labored in advancing the interests of God’s beloved Son. (16:10)
Paul urged the Corinthians not to look down on Timothy or to treat him as nothing. This implied that they should appreciate him as a brother in Christ and accord him love and respect. (16:11)
For the Corinthians to “send” Timothy on his way “in peace” could have meant for them to do so in a kindly manner, with their blessing, and supplied with necessities for the trip. Timothy would be traveling to rejoin Paul, who would be waiting for him. The reference to “brothers” could either apply to the ones with Timothy or to those with the apostle. Both meanings are found in translations. (16:11) “I am expecting him to come to me here with the other Christian brothers.” (J. B. Phillips) “I am looking for him to return to me together with the other followers.” (CEV) “I am waiting for him with our friends.” (REB) “The brothers and I are waiting for him.” (NJB)
Paul had strongly urged Apollos to accompany the “brothers,” probably meaning Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, on their trip back to Corinth. Apollos, though, did not want to visit the congregation then but intended to do so when he had an opportunity at another time. (16:12; see the Notes section.)
Serious problems had developed in the community of believers at Corinth, making Paul’s concluding exhortation most appropriate. The Corinthians needed to be awake, watchful, or vigilant to remain loyal to God and Christ, not deviating from a life of uprightness. It was essential for them to stand firm in the faith (their faith in Christ), resisting faithless persons like those who denied the resurrection hope. For the Corinthians “to be manly” would have meant for them to conduct themselves as mature persons with courage and strong conviction for what is right, not yielding to harmful influences. They needed to become strong as spiritual persons, not allowing impressive personalities, eloquent speech, or plausible arguments to sway them from the glad tidings about Christ. (16:13)
Nothing was to be exempt from the requirement for them to act “in love.” (16:14) For the Corinthians, this would have included rejecting the factious spirit that had developed among them, showing kindly consideration for the limitations of others by not insisting on personal rights, making use of the spiritual gifts for the upbuilding of all, and ending the abuses that had arisen in connection with the observance of the Lord’s supper.
To his Corinthian “brothers,” Paul spoke commendably about the household of Stephanas. The believers in Corinth knew the members of this household very well, for they were the “firstfruits of Achaia,” or the first ones in the province of Achaia to have accepted the good news about Christ. Understandably, therefore, they were among the few whom the apostle had personally baptized. (1:16; 16:15)
Of their own accord and not on the basis of anyone else’s appointment, Stephanas and those of his household took upon themselves the “ministry to the holy ones.” They must have busied themselves in serving fellow believers, selflessly expending themselves in rendering whatever spiritual or material aid they could in response to needs. (16:15)
The apostle admonished the Corinthians to submit to or to be supportive of persons like the members of the household of Stephanas and then added, “and to everyone working together and laboring.” (16:16) The others may have been individuals who worked and toiled with persons like those of the household of Stephanas. A number of translations make this significance explicit. “I urge you to put yourselves at the service of such people, and of everyone who works and toils with them.” (NRSV) “Be subordinate to such people and to everyone who works and toils with them.” (NAB) “Follow the leading of people like these and anyone else who works and serves with them.” (NCV) “I ask you in turn to put yourselves at the service of people like this and all that work with them in this arduous task.” (NJB)
The Greek text, however, does not include a pronoun denoting “them.” For this reason, the renderings of other translations reflect a more general significance. “I urge you to accept the leadership of people like them, of anyone who labours hard at our common task.” (REB) “I ask you to obey leaders like them and to do the same for all others who work hard with you.” (CEV)
The presence of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus had proved to be a source of joy to Paul. These Corinthian brothers had made up for his being away from the rest of the congregation. (16:17) Doubtless because of the faith and love these men manifested, the apostle could say that they had refreshed his spirit. Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus must have represented the best of the community of believers in Corinth, with their presence having an uplifting effect on Paul’s whole being. In view of their having raised his spirits, he spoke of them positively as also having refreshed the spirit of the Corinthians. Persons like these brothers deserved to be given recognition or to be highly valued and appreciated for their service to fellow believers. (16:18)
Paul extended the greetings of the congregations in the Roman province of Asia (in the western part of present-day Turkey). Aquila and Prisca (Priscilla, according to other manuscripts) were then in Ephesus with Paul. (16:8; compare Acts 18:18, 19, 24-26; 19:1.) As this couple had previously resided in Corinth (Acts 18:1, 2), they were known to the Corinthians. Aquila, Prisca, and the group of believers who met in their home for fellowship sent many greetings in the Lord, or as persons who were at one with the Lord Jesus Christ as members of his body. (16:19)
After telling the Corinthians that “all the brothers” greeted them, Paul continued, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” This would have been a kiss that reflected their relationship as beloved fellow children of God. (16:20)
Paul customarily dictated his letters. To indicate that this letter was indeed from him, he wrote the greeting with “his own hand.” (16:21)
Affection for the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed by the love believers have for one another. To treat a fellow child of God in a loveless manner is a grave sin. It may be because certain ones among the Corinthians had seriously failed in showing love that the apostle included the strong expression, “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be anathema [accursed].” (16:22)
Devoted disciples of God’s Son yearn for his return and their being united with him. This thought would be conveyed when the Semitic expression in Paul’s letter is transliterated as Marana tha (“O Lord, come).” When, however, the expression is understood to be Maran atha, it would be a declaration of faith, “Our Lord has come.” (16:22)
Paul concluded his letter with a prayerful expression and the assurance of his own love. “The favor of the Lord Jesus [Christ, included in other manuscripts] [be] with you. My love [be] with all of you in Christ Jesus. [Amen (So be it) in numerous manuscripts].” The “favor,” grace, or unmerited or unearned kindness would include all the aid and guidance the Son of God gives to his disciples. Although numerous problems had arisen in Corinth and much needed to be corrected, the apostle did not weaken in his love for the community of believers there. He loved all who were “in Christ,” fellow members of his body and children of God. (16:23, 24; see the Notes section.)
The reference to “adversaries” (in 16:9) does not include the incident involving the silversmith Demetrius. Paul had sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia before Demetrius stirred up his fellow silversmiths against Paul as a threat to their profitable trade in fashioning silver shrines of Artemis, precipitating a riot in the theater of Ephesus. (Acts 19:22-40)
The letter does not disclose why Apollos refused to act on the apostle’s entreaty to go to Corinth. (16:12) Paul respected his fellow worker’s decision to visit the congregation at his own discretion. The apostle’s example contrasts sharply with that of many in positions of power within various religious movements. Although having no divinely granted apostolic authority as did Paul, they think nothing of exercising control and issuing commands in matters of this nature.
In the Greek text, the word “will” (16:12) is not preceded by the pronoun “his.” The inclusion of this pronoun would have made the application to the will of Apollos very specific. Its absence has caused some to conclude that it may have been God’s will or the Lord’s will for Apollos not to visit the Corinthian congregation at that time. It is, however, very unlikely for Paul not to have identified the will as being that of God or that of the Lord Jesus Christ if this had been his intended meaning, and nothing in the context implies such a significance.
After verse 24, numerous manuscripts include a subscription indicating that the letter is for the Corinthians. There are also manuscripts that mention that the letter was written from Ephesus, whereas others say that it was written from Philippi (which the internal evidence does not support as the location).