1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 16:1-24 – Collection and Exhortation

1 CORINTHIANS 16v1-24

Collection and Exhortation!

 

INTRODUCTION.

Chapter 15 is Paul’s wonderful discourse on the resurrection of Christ and its implications for those who are the people of God. Implications not only for the future eternal state in heaven – that there is the assurance of life after death BUT that there is hope and purpose to life in this present age.

 

The concluding verse of chapter 15 draws the implications of what the resurrection means for the Christian in the present age.

Therefore my dear friends, Stand firm.

Let nothing move you.

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,

because you know that you labour in the Lord is not in vain. [15v58]

 

If you are convinced that the resurrection is true then it must affect your life!  BUT if there are no eternal ramifications for what we believe then the motivation for serving God and holy living are gone. The trouble is that many Christians live as if there are no eternal ramifications to their faith. What does the fact of the resurrection do for your living.

 

It seems to me that countless Christians are content to do as little as possible in their service for God rather than as much as possible!  How can we be satisfied with the trivial, insignificant, short-lived things of this world?  How can we take it easy when so many around us are spiritually dead and when so many fellow believers need building up, encouragement and help of many kinds?

 

Paul’s exhortation is to “Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord”. Have you? Have I?

But Gray you don’t understand my situation! My home life …. My work ….

Yes I do understand!! I am not talking about being at Church meeting every night of the week. Yes you have a responsibility to your family and to your job and you need time to relax and be refreshed, the Bible makes provision for that! The proper amount of recreartion and relaxation can restore our energy and increase our effectiveness BUT how easily these things become an end in themselves and sap our time and energy and distract us from wholeheartedly following God.

Even family responsibility can be used as an excuse – but that doesn’t mean you can’t give up a couple of evenings a week for Bible study, fellowship and reaching out to friends and neighbours!

 

God has given us time, abilities and gifts, and material goods – How are we using them in his work.

Behold, I am coming soon!

My reward is with me, and I

will give to everyone according

to what he has done [Rev.22v12]

Jesus is taking account of how we use what he has given us? Only what is done for him and his work is of any account!

 

Paul deals with some of these practical matters in chapter 16

 

1. SHARING OUR RESOURCES.

 

It seems a big change from talking about lofty doctrine of the resurrection to the very mundane task of collecting money for the needy. Theology should never be unrelated to living in the here and now. Whenever we are given a glimpse of heaven or the end times it is always with the purpose of helping us live more faithfully in the here and now.

For example Peter in 2 Peter 3v14 [cf.v11] after a full discription of the last days says:-

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this

[ie. Christ coming] make every effort to be found spotless,

blameless and at peace with him.

 

Jesus talked about the same thing when he spoke of storing up treasure in heaven while we are on this earth [Matt.6v20]

 

This collection that Paul is talking about was known about by the Church in Corinth and all the Galatian Churches who had been collecting funds to send to the Church in Jerusalem which was in great difficulty. Besides the persecution that the Jerusalem Church had suffered there had also been a famine which had meant that the Christians in Jerusalem were under great stress.

 

This passage not only teaches us something about giving but also about the interdependence and mutual accountability of local church to each others – not only those in your own village and town but also for those in other cultures and countries.

 

The early church was both international and interdependent. Paul mentions at least five Roman provinces in this chapter Galatia, Judaea, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia. These are all very different areas of the Roman Empire – European and Eastern, Jew and Arab, Greek and Roman, rural and urban. Yet inspite of the differences between them they were united in Christ, one in purpose.

If we as Christians lose this multinational flavour of the church we not only become parochial but we miss out on so much the God wants to give us and teach us.

 

ILLUST: “Andrew Murray Consultation on Prayer for revival for mission sending” 1985. English, Afrikaans, Portugese, Zulu, Shona,….. Black, White, Asian,…  BUT a oneness and unity of purpose.

 

Communication within the Roman Empire was very good – roads and postal service – and the early Church used these to spread the good news and kept contact with each other.

 

These verses about the collection show that the Churches cared for each others and shared their resources.

 

When it comes to money – we don’t often like to talk about it – our financial affairs are our own business. Are they??? Why should we be willing to talk about spiritual commitment and not about financial commitment as if the two were divorced anyway. Money matters are not excluded from our Christian life. If Christ is Lord of your life then he is also Lord of your Bank account.

 

WHO SHOULD GIVE? – seems fairly straight forward! [v2 “each one of you”] God doesn’t say “Give only if you are well off” of “If you can afford it”

 

ILLUST: The widow who gave two pennies as opposed to the rich giving large amounts. Jesus said ” She has given more than them all because she has given everything she has”

 

 

HOW MUCH SHOULD WE GIVE?

Many go to the OT and say that we should give a tithe [10%]. In fact if you add up all the required tithes in the OT it comes to about 23% It was out of that portion that the Priest were supported and the nation was run – they really were more like taxes. And it is good and proper for citizen to pay taxes so that they nation can function. [ ie. Give to Caesar – obet the govt.] But there were also freewill offerings and special offerings -eg. for the building of the Tabernacle.

 

NT – no percentage is ever specified in the NT. The believer is required to give from the heart

Give and it will be given to you,

A good measure, pressed down,

shaken together and running over,

will be poured into your lap. [Luke6v38]

Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly

and whoever sows generously will also reap

generously [2 Corinthians 9v6]

 

This does not mean that we give in order to receive. There are some who teach “You give God $10 he will give you $100” That is not what the Bible teaches – you don’t give to get – Rather having received great blessing from God we give in response. Like the chorus says “Freely you have received, freely give!

 

So how much do I give?? v2 “set aside a sum inkeeping with your income” There is no set amount

ILLUST: A person who earns $1000 may be able to give $100 but a person who earns $2000 may be able to give $500

 

HOW AND WHEN SHOULD WE GIVE??

Paul told the Corinthians “every week”. May be it is easier monthly. In cash or cheque or Direct debit. That is not what is important BUT the principle is that we should give regularly and our give should be planned. It should be a habit and it should be part and parcel of our worship of God.

 

Our giving should not be based on periodic emotional appeals and feelings BUT on willing, grateful commitment of our possesions to the Lord, to his people and to his work.

That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t have special appeals when there is a specific need – eg. the Burma Plan [loose change] for Bob Pearn. – But that should be extra and over and above our normal planned giving.

 

PERSONAL GIVING!!

The giving was for people – fellow Christians – we have a responsibility to our fellow Christians first. We must of course do good to all men [ the good Samaritan teaches us that] but

Doo good to all men …

esp. to those who are of the household of Faith [Gal 6v10]

 

ALSO those from the churches that had collected the money were sent to carry the gift personally and Paul was hoping to go as well. We are not only responsible to give money but also people – the sent some of their members.

 

ILLUST: When we were missionaries we were grateful for the funds we received BUT when people took the time to write and even visit that was of infinite value.

 

God’s work is not money – its PEOPLE to people – fellowship, encouragement, building each other up, caring.

 

The early Church not only shared it material resources but also its personnel resources. Timothy, Apollos, Priscilla and Aquilla, Paul, Peter…… were all involved in moving to from one church to another to build them up or to establish new churches.

 

It is not only the recipient that are blessed when we give but we are blessed as well.

Therefore when we are involved with other Churches locally, nationally and internationally we need to give but also to receive and to learn from them.

The Western Church I believe is guilty of being to patronizing and we need to learn to receive from other cultures. The centre of the Christian Faith is no longer in the Western world but in Africa, Asia and South America and those churches have a lot to teach us.

 

But finally when there is a giving and receiving among Christians and when we really care in practical, down to earth way it is a witness to the world that Christ does make a difference.

 

ILLUST: Listen to what an Athenian Statesman, Aristides, wrote about the christians in the 2nd century:

They walk in humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them and they love one another. They despise not the widow and they grieve not the orphan. He that has distributes liberally to him that has not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof and they rejoice over him as if he were their brother. For they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh but after the Spirit and in God. But when one of the poor passes away from this world and any of them see him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability. And if they hear of any of their number is in prison or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs. And if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him. And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy and they have not an abundance of necessity, they will fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with his necessary food.

 

Is that what the community in which we live thinks of us???

 

2. STRENGTHENING OUR RESOLVE.

 

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith,

be men [ people] of courage; be strong.

Do everything in love! [v.13-14]

I want to focus on this one verse as we draw our study of first Corinthians to a close. Paul has dealt with a large number of issues in the letter – he has praised them, rebuked them, criticised them instructed and encouraged them.

 

Chapters 1-3        quarrels in the names of leaders.

4&9      attitude towards Paul and his authority as an apostle.

6v1-11   lawsuits among members

7            Marriage relationships

8&10     Abuse of the weak by the “Know-alls”

11          Abuse of the “havenots” by the “haves” at the Lord’s supper

12&14   use and misuse of the gifts

13          love

15          Resurrection and the hereafter

 

The Corinthian Church had slipped up in many ways – the list we have just read is not very flattering. They had not been on their guard – been alert. They had drifted away from the teaching of the apostles – they had allowed their own opinions and prejudices to determine their thinking and behaviour rather that the word of God. They had allowed the philosophies of the day to have too much sway amongst them.

 

Satan hasn’t changed – he still tries to catch us off guard. And often we seem to go out of our way to make it easy for him. Paul encourages us to stand firm in the faith – “Well how?” – By knowing what we believe and putting it into practice.

But many Christians today are unsure of what they believe – other things have been allowed to crowd out our faith.

‘What difference does your faith make to your life?

Are you on your guard and standing firm in what you believe?

“How keen are you to study God’s Word?’

“How keen are you to tell friends and colleagues and family what Jesus means to you”

If the gospel makes no difference in your life then what is the point of being a Christian. If Sunday morning is the extend of your Christian life then Satan is happy because we have enough religion to appease our consciences but not enough to make any difference to our world.

 

BE STRONG, BE MEN OF COURAGE….

Be men – be adult – “Grown up” The Corinthians were acting very childishly with their squabbling and selfishness. “I follow Paul…. I follow Peter …   My gifts are better than yours …. I know more than you ….”  Paul says  – stop acting like children and grow up.

 

These kind of things usually develop in a church when they loose their vision. When we have nothing to focus on we tend to focus on self and that is when we become ineffective. Or we simply become passive Christians – allowing our families and our work and our home and our hobbies and past-times become all consuming and crowd God out of our lives so that he is confine to a back room where he won’t bother us any more.

 

We can’t be physically strong without self-disipline.

 

ILLUST: How does Linford Christie run 100m in under 10secs. By being a coac potato. Of course not. He has trained for years and CONTINUES to do so. It has taken discipline sacrifice and commitment.

 

Spiritual strength also comes from self-sacrifice, self-denial and self-disipline. Don’t you think there were times when Christie would rather have stayed in bed and not gone running in the rain – gone to the pub rather than to the track.  And he is doing it for a medal that will not last.

[1 Co.9v25] Everyone who competes in the games

exercises self-control in all things. They then do it

to receive a perishable wreath, but we an inperishable.

 

How committed are you to what you believe???

 

ILLUST: Martina Navratilova – at the height of her tennis career was asked “What made you so good?”  “Like the chicken or egg sandwich – chicken involved in the egg sandwich BUT committed to the chicken sandwich? I am committed to Tennis – it is my life?

 

Are you simply involved in your Faith or are you committed to it? God is never content with second best.

 

The supreme strength of our spiritual strength in Christ himself.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength [Phil.4v13]

That does mean that we passively sit waiting for the stength BUT we get on with it and find that God strengthen us in the process.

As we wait for the Lord and yaild our spirits to His Spirit we become “strengthen with power through His Spirit in our inner being” {Eph. 3v16}

 

Paul is not talking about a sterile, stiff-upper-lip, stoically kind of commitment to God. NO!! That is why it is balanced with v14 Let all that you do be done in love”

 

Love compliments and balances everything else. It is the beautiful softening principle. It keeps our firmness from become hardness and our strength from becoming domineering.

It keeps our maturity gentle and considerate.

It keeps our correct doctrine from becoming obstinate dogmatism.

It keeps our right living from becoming self-righteous smugness.

 

Peter in 1 Peter 4v8:-

Above all keep fervent in your love for one another

because love covers a multitude of sins.

Love like Spiritual strength comes from the Lord [1 John 4v7:-

Dear friends, let us love one another,

for love comes from God and everyone

whom loves is born of God and knows God.

 

Like the Corinthian Christians we have to learn to live between the “already” and the “not yet”. We have already recieved salvation BUT we are not yet perfect, we haven’t arrived. What we must not do is allow ourselves to excuse ourselves form obeying because we are not fully their.

 

The grace of God and the hope of his coming should spur us on to take to heart the words of this letter and to be watchful and to do all things in love.

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