Today the blog continues its examination of St. Paul’s Corinthian correspondence. Previous material on this topic and on Genesis and Mark, can be accessed from my archive. Biblical references can be placed after emmock.com as can particular topics eg. emmock.com John 3:16; or emmock.com obedience. The daily headlines are reminders of the world we live in:
16 Now as far as the fund for Christians in need is concerned, I should like you to follow the same rule that I gave to the Galatian church.
2-4 On the first day of the week let everyone put so much by him, according to his financial ability, so that there will be no need for collections when I come. Then, on my arrival, I will send whomever you approve to take your gift, with my recommendation, to Jerusalem. If it seems right for me to go as well, we will make up a party together .
5-9 I shall come to you after my intended journey through Macedonia and I may stay with you awhile or even spend the winter with you. Then you can see me on my way—wherever it is that I go next. I don’t wish to see you now, for it would merely be in passing, and I hope to spend some time with you, if it is God’s will. I shall stay here in Ephesus until the feast of Pentecost, for there is a great opportunity of doing useful work, and there are many people against me.
10-12 If Timothy comes to you, put him at his ease. He is as genuine a worker for the Lord as I am, and there is therefore no reason to look down on him. Send him on his way in peace, for I am expecting him to come to me here with the other Christian brothers. As for our brother Apollos I pressed him strongly to go to you with the rest, but it was definitely not God’s will for him to do so then. However, he will come to you as soon as an opportunity occurs.
13-14 Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, live like heroes, be strong! Let everything that you do be done in love.
My grandfather, Alexander Mair, was a missionary with the China Inland Mission from 1911 – 1948. His correspondence always showed a keen awareness of the recipients’ needs and of the work of other missionaries across China and indeed the world. Something big was happening, of which today’s flourishing Chinese churches are proof, but the heart of it was a belonging together in Jesus that involved precise personal knowledge and concern.
We can see this same practical concern in Paul. The money he was collecting was for the poor of the mother assembly in Jerusalem, who were half a world away from Corinth and foreigners at that, yet Paul saw the Assembly of Messiah Jesus as one body, although each geographical assembly was also the body of Messiah. Imaginative sharing across geographical, racial and cultural boundaries would express this unity, and would build up the body as a whole. His naming of remote Galatia, with its population of Celtic barbarians, is intended to remind the Corinthians that they are part of a new worldwide partnership, and to arouse a healthy kind of competition.
It would seem that the Corinthians favoured the emissary Apollos and had demanded a visit from him, rather than from Paul, who was in any case engaged in fruitful work in Ephesos. Paul sends Timothy who has his complete trust, while announcing that although Apollos has been asked, God ( via Paul) has made it clear that he should not go at present. This may seem high-handed but Paul clearly thought Apollos was soft on fundamental matters, and that the Corinthians should be stopped using Jesus’ emissaries like slaves who could be summoned or rejected.
There are interesting facts embedded here about the Assemblies of Jesus. There were no costs in an assembly’s local existence, although it was assumed that members would share resources to make sure that no member was destitute. Assemblies were however expected to contribute the living and travel costs of the emissaries, although Paul often refused these and earned his living by his own trade. Paul’s collection is an early example of Christian Aid, and was a one-off request. The impression given is of a movement which is light on its feet, making good use of the opportunities created by the Roman Empire, in particular the means of communication, to cherish individual and group identities over great distances. Paul and his fellow emissaries were on the way to creating a human web of sharing across the world which would become as efficient as that of Rome itself. The capacity to share with brothers and sisters across the inhabited world reflects Paul’s conviction that the assemblies of Jesus are not a new way of being religious but a new way of being human.
The final sentence above is typical of Paul. The first three injunctions encourage an almost military discipline, but all of them are to be channels of love.